Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has tapped a union official to be his education liaison.
Baker announced Tuesday that he has named Christian Rhodes to serve as education policy adviser. Rhodes, 28, who lives in Camp Springs, previously served as a political organizer for the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union.
Filling the post was a key campaign promise for Baker when he ran in 2010.
Rhodes will have to navigate a politically volatile arena; the county’s elected school board has been leery of Baker’s plans to name his own education policy expert, although the position existed in previous administrations.
Rhodes will be paid $102,000 a year.
As educational policy adviser, Rhodes will have a broad portfolio, Baker said in a statement. He will be responsible for improving coordination among various branches of county government, including the formulation of a comprehensive and effective school budget, pursuit of educational innovation and reform and advocacy on both a state and national level, all roles traditionally held by the school board.
The 125,000-student Prince George’s County Public Schools, while logging some improvement in recent years on standardized tests and other measures, still hovers near the bottom among state public school systems. Last week, a coalition of community leaders announced a new group to try to buttress academic achievement.
The Consortium of Concerned Organizations is made up of the County Council of PTAs; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) — Prince George’s County Branch; Casa de Maryland; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); the Urban League of Greater Washington; Prince George’s County Contractors Association, the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel (ASASP); and AFSCME Local 2250.
“It is our collective opinion that the state of public education in Prince George’s County is at a crisis level. Academic indicators of student attainment, as reported by the Maryland State Department of Education, are at or near the bottom in every category of instruction. In addition, this condition has existed for too long without sustained and measured improvement,” said a joint statement from the coalition.